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Murder trial begins in Wadena

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Jury selection began Tuesday in Wadena County District Court in the trial of a rural Menahga man charged with unintentional second-degree murder about a year and a half ago.

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Thorpe Thomas Bradley faces trial for his alleged involvement in an assault that caused another man's death. The alleged fight happened Sept. 16, 2006, near the Mary Brown Bridge southeast of Menahga, according to court reports. The alleged victim, Thomas Charles Hensel, was found in a vehicle with bruising and other signs of trauma, according to court documents, and later died at a Fargo hospital on Sept. 18, 2006.

Judge Jay D. Carlson is presiding for the trial. Prosecutors are Eric Schieferdecker and Kyra Ladd. The defense is represented by Joe Parise and Ryan Ries.

A pool of 64 prospective jurors filled the Wadena County courtroom Tuesday afternoon just before 2 p.m.

This number will be pared to 12 jurors and two alternates.

Of the 64 jurors, 22 prospective jurors were called Tuesday to be part of a panel near the front of the courtroom.

The judge asked them a series of questions, including whether anyone had medical conditions that might hinder his or her ability to serve on a jury, if anyone had hearing impairments and whether anyone had a pressing or personal matter that could prevent him or her from serving on the jury.

Carlson said the trial could last seven or eight days.

Each potential juror gave a brief background, including family information. They each answered a questionnaire before the selection process began.

They were asked if they knew the defendant or the attorneys. Also, the potential jurors were asked whether they knew each other. Several people knew each other and had relationships such as banker/customer, neighbors, some had mutual friends and someone provided day care for another juror's children.

Carlson explained that the prosecution is required to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the highest burden of proof, he said. Charges are not evidence, he added. Also, the jury must reach a unanimous verdict to convict the defendant, Carlson said.

A list of potential witnesses was read to potential jurors. They were asked if they knew any of the people and if those relationships would lead to bias in listening to testimony.

Several jurors knew former Wadena County Chief Deputy Steve Young, who was listed as a potential witness. A few jurors said they remembered Young because of his involvement in a fatal accident years ago and said they might be biased.

During a break, four jurors were excused from the 22 potential jurors. Four more people were called to the prospective juror panel.

A woman said she was with the ambulance that was called to the scene of the fight and knew too much about the case to be partial. She was excused.

A college student said he was worried about failing a class if he missed it for jury duty. He was excused.

A man was excused because he said he would have significant economic hardship if he had to miss seven or eight days of work. The man said he would probably be upset and thinking about that if he were on the jury.

Carlson reminded jurors that simply not wanting to miss work was not an excuse for getting out of jury duty.

The defense began asking individual questions to the 22 potential jurors on the panel. The prosecution will have an opportunity to ask individual questions after the defense.

Jury selection was set to continue at 9 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Editor's note: Check back daily at www.wadenapj.com for updated trial coverage.

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